Choosing Fabric Colors Tutorial

Here’s a tutorial for choosing fabric colors for your quilts with an online tool called the Moda Color Palette Builder by Playcrafts  that you can find on the Moda Fabrics website.

Beach Bound Mini Quilt

Beach Bound Mini Quilt


We can all get into a color rut.  I know that I have certain go-to color palettes that, if I’m not careful, will show up in every…single…quilt….I make. Like the palette in this mini quilt I made for a swap.





And, now that I’ve nearly finished designing quilts for my Patriotic Modern Quilts Book (forthcoming 2017), I’m ready to start a new series of quilts.  I’ve been deep into a red/white/blue/gold palette for several months.

Patriotic Modern Quilts USAPatriotic fabric 5


So, how could I get out of my color rut?

I’ve seen people post their results on Instagram when they used this online color palette builder from PlayCrafts and I always thought it was intriguing.  By the way, the PlayCrafts site is also where you find other color palette tools and even files with Kona and other fabric images that you can download.  I encourage you to visit  this site.

I decided to do some experimenting with different color palettes based on some of my photographs.   I used the Palette Builder from the Moda website. 

Here is a very short tutorial–it’s a very simple tool to use.

When you go to the site, here’s the opening screen that you will see.  There is a small green button that says “Load Image”.   You can use a scan of a fabric or any other type of jpeg image.

Palette Builder « modafabrics 2016-07-06 17-13-19







Using Photos as Inspiration

So, I hit the button, and then navigated to my photos folders on my computer.  I highlighted a photo that I took on my trip to Hong Kong China about 4 years ago.  When I hit the Open button, here’s what I saw.

Hong Kong scarves a-1

My photo of scarves in a market was there.  There is a palette of colors across the bottom.  These are the colors selected by the tool from the photograph.

On the right, you will see the list of Moda Bella solids that match these colors. Be sure to select “Save Matches with Palette”.

You can also opt to see matching Aurifil threads or the Hex values (used by graphic designers).

The first palette will show you 6 colors.  But, to the right of the bottom row of swatches, you will see a green plus sign.  Click that 4 times and you will get more 4 colors swatches.  If you hover your mouse on any of these swatches, you can delete it–a small minus sign will light up.

When you hit SAVE, the photo and both swatch groups will be saved as one image.  Be sure to select “Save Matches with Palette”.  My photo editing software opened up when I hit save and I saved it as a jpeg.

Now, here’s where the magic comes in:  What you can’t see in my screen shot is that there are several very small white circles scattered across the photo.  These are the color selecters.   You can move these circles around with your mouse so they cover different parts of the photo.

When you move the little circles, the selected colors change.  If your photo is as complex as mine, move the mouse very slowly and watch those bottom swatches change.  After I played around with the color selecters, I saved  two more palettes. See how one palette  is more subdued and one palette  is much brighter.

Hong Kong scarves a-2


Hong Kong scarves a-3

Here’s another photo that seemed to be almost monochrome and the palettes I created.  Even a simple photo can yield interesting results.

Hong Kong skyline 7-6 Pal A2









Hong Kong skyline 7-6 Pal AI really like this moody palette……

Using the Palette Builder with Fabric as the Inspiration

Here’s a palette based on a fabric swatch. This is a great tool if your fabric swatch does not have color dots on the selvedge or if you want to experiment with different combinations.  This palette has 8 colors, but I could limit my palette to just 5 colors for instance and play around with different combinations.


Using an Earlier Quilt as Inspiration

And, here’s a photo of a part of one of my quilts in my recently published  Madly Modern Quilts Book  that has many different fabrics in it.  I might want to use this tropical quilt as an inspiration for a modern, all solids quilt.  This tool will help me quickly narrow down my colors and then play and play with a lot of combinations before I choose one.

Here’s one of the palettes I made.



The Moda Palette Builder by Playcrafts is so much fun to use and I’m sure it will guide me into using new color palettes  for future quilts!

3 Responses to Choosing Fabric Colors Tutorial

  1. Lisa July 9, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Thanks for this Carol: I’ve never quite figured out how to use the palette builder…so I’ve book marked this page for when I have time to get ot it.

  2. handwroughtquilts July 11, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

    If you link to the palette builder via the play-crafts site you have the option of Kona solids as well.

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